The Liverpool Care Pathway was first developed by specialists in palliative medicine to give compassionate care and respect to those facing death. Its stated aim was to enable patients ‘to live until they die’, free of pain. Extended to all NHS hospitals since the 1990s, this Pathway has become subject to major abuse.
Large numbers of patients not suffering from terminal illness, but whose quality of life is judged deficient or too costly to sustain, are routinely being put on the Pathway - often without the knowledge or consent of either themselves or their families. The Telegraph, before Christmas, famously reported that of the 130,000 patients placed on the Pathway in NHS hospitals every year, 57,000 last year were given no hint that their treatment had been stopped and measures put in place to hasten death.
What it means: For patients on this Pathway all treatment, broadly defined so as to include food and hydration, is withdrawn. This effectively means the patient is starved to death. The process is then helped along by the administration of massive doses of narcotics, which serve to sedate the patient, but even by themselves can be lethal.
People wrongly put on this Pathway, if removed in time, have gone on to make a full recovery. Sadly, many others - also wrongly put on this Pathway, but for whom help has come too late, - have died. We do not criticise right use of the Pathway for those in the end stages of clear and established terminal disease, but we wholly deplore wrongful extension of this Pathway to the chronically ill, or to those whose only deficiency is to be old.
We acknowledge the positive aspects of the Liverpool Care Pathway as providing good and compassionate care to those in the end stages of clear and established terminal disease, but we call upon government to put in place adequate safeguards to prevent the inappropriate extension and misapplication of this programme to end prematurely and without justification the lives of elderly and/or chronically ill patients admitted to hospital, whose quality of life is assessed as poor, and whose care is deemed a financial burden. We emphasise that people need access to adequate end of life care without fear of it being applied inappropriately.
We call for the removal of any and all financial incentives made to NHS Trusts linked merely to the number of patients on the Pathway (or on any other form of treatment or intervention), rather than to the actual improvement of levels of care. We fear abuse of the Pathway both endangers patients and puts unacceptable pressure upon doctors.
We call for safeguards to be put in place ensuring that full information be given to both patients and their families in relation to their treatment and care - especially, but not only, towards the end of life, so that placing on the Pathway be done only with full and informed consent.
The Prevent Abuse of the Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP) petition to The UK Government was written by Voice for Justice UK and is in the category Health at GoPetition.